For many seniors, the prospect of implementing technology into their lives after decades of living without it can feel daunting. Some seniors are physically unable to use the technology, some may be skeptical, while others can have a hard time learning something new.
Equally, younger senior living community staff may not feel equipped to teach residents how to use the new technology. But don’t worry, there is hope! With some patience and guidance, this process can be truly fulfilling for all involved.
Scott Smith has a unique perspective when it comes to the use of technology in a senior living setting. As National Director of Resident Programming at Five Star Senior Living, he is all too familiar with the implementation of technology for his residents.
Smith started his career selling technology to senior living communities as a vendor, but for the past decade, he has worked as an administrator at the facilities to which he once sold his products. He is currently the National Director of Resident Programming at Five Star Senior Living, where he has become an advocate for older adults and for the use of technology in providing his residents a direct engagement experience.
We recently sat down with Smith to talk about the use of technology in senior living facilities. We asked him about certain hot topics in the industry to gather information that can be used to point your community in the right direction.
He has sold, used, and taught the technology utilized in facilities across the country. He knows how it can make a provider’s job easier, and help residents connect to a much bigger world, as well as how to get residents to buy in on the technology they may be reluctant to embrace.
How to Make a Provider’s job Easier
Sometimes communities struggle to properly use the products they purchase, which is counterproductive. As a result, the very thing that’s supposed to make life easier ends up making tasks such as resident engagement or scheduling appointments harder.
While technology in senior living is created to address specific resident needs, senior living providers who fail to integrate their systems are not maximizing the value of their investment. Suffering as a result are residents, staff, family — and the bottom line.
This could be different if the vendor provides the support needed to introduce the new technology into the community’s daily routine and if the community clearly defines who is responsible for aiding in the transition.
In his experience, Smith finds the resources which senior living facilities lack the most are workforce and time. As such, it’s crucial the end users feel the technology being brought into these communities saves time and makes each employee’s job easier.
“The number one thing we’re missing out on is automation,” Smith said. “The technology that comes into senior living has to make life easier in the community.”
It would also help if the new technology was integrated into the existing tech. This would create fewer steps for those involved, thus reducing the amount of time spent on the task at hand.
Smith uses the example of profile software to explain how this is greatly needed, yet rarely happening.
“Who owns (updating the profiles), how much work goes into that, and how as a tech provider can you partner with somebody to help automate that for the community,” Smith said. “What will happen in most buildings is that will fall by the wayside. Before you know it, that great idea really doesn’t do much at the building level for us because there wasn’t enough automation in the process.”
The more a community integrates its technology devices and systems, the better experience its residents and staff will have. Better experience means higher occupancy rates and less staff turnover. And when providers can track data, they can be more precise with the information they provide to families about residents.
You are not Alone
Most of us know this.
Thanks to the pandemic, many people adapted and learned how to gather virtually through Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams. For example, Microsoft Teams went from 13 million daily active users in July 2019 to 145 million in April 2021.
This, however, isn’t prominent in senior living facilities, but it is something Smith sees becoming more popular over the next couple of decades.
“What we will see is tech is going to connect us to other communities where people have very similar interests,” Smith said.
Using technology, he envisions people at several locations across the country gathering at the same time to watch something they all share interest in.
“This will allow us to personalize that engagement experience for people,” Smith said.
Being engaged is very important for the wellbeing of senior living residents. Long before COVID-19 put a spotlight on the threat of isolation, healthcare professionals were working to curb what largely is considered an epidemic in itself — one with just as serious health implications.
Loneliness in older adults has been linked to poor health outcomes and, in some extreme circumstances, an increased risk of mortality.
Create a Secure Connection
First and foremost, it is essential for communities to enhance their Wi-Fi system to provide a stable wireless connection for residents. Having a wireless infrastructure in place can support the adoption and use of devices that will improve their health and wellbeing.
Right now, more than ever, the ability for these residents to connect, share, and communicate is of utmost importance for their mental and physical health, as well as for the success of these facilities.
The use for Wi-Fi capabilities in senior communities goes beyond Facebook or FaceTime with their grandchildren. While those reasons are extremely important for residents facing quarantine protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic, wireless connection also permits telehealth capabilities, state-of-the-art medical and facility controls, and gives residents the freedom to contact staff and healthcare professionals.
Residents utilize wireless connection for more than socializing. Furthermore, contactless medical visits and appointments are critical in the age of COVID-19. Wireless connection makes it effortless to conduct remote routine check-ups with residents via video conferences – protecting both the staff and the senior from potential COVID-19 transmission. Internet connectivity also enables family members to be part of these remote appointments without having to be on premise.
Is there truly a demand for all this technology or are vendors trying to create a demand?
Smith says we’re often pushing technology onto a generation that isn’t asking for it.
The best way to break through this barrier is to start small and build up slowly. Find a simple problem a resident has and help them solve it. Then gradually move on to more complicated technology.
“Keep it simple. What is a small thing they can do to start utilizing technology,” Smith said. “Identify some pain points they have and work on those types of things first.”
The technology most people are going to use is what solves an immediate problem. It’s good to embrace it slowly and let them learn at their own pace.
Seniors have proven they can adjust to the ever-evolving tech landscape as well as any other age group. Once seniors are connected to the internet, getting online becomes part of their daily routine. According to a 2020 AARP study, more than 80 percent of those 50-plus said they use technology in some form to stay connected, many on a daily basis.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect example of how quickly seniors learned the ins and outs of new technologies to stay connected with loved ones by using FaceTime, hosting meetings on Zoom, and hopping on telemedicine calls with physicians.
- Understand your customer – corporate, community or end user.
- Be patient with providers – don’t overwhelm them with technology.
- Collaborate to automate – try to make the technology communicate with each other.
The intent of technology is to make things easier for everyone involved. In a senior living setting that means the vendor selling the product as well as the employees and residents who will be using it.
New technology will prove ineffective if it’s not properly introduced and maintained, and if staff is not successfully trained to use it. There needs to be a process in place to make this transition go smoothly. It takes collaboration from beginning to end to ensure success.
The implementation of new technology helps alleviate the stress of adhering to social distancing guidelines with telehealth capabilities, health monitoring and mobility assistance devices, as well as enhanced security control. Ultimately, technology aids in keeping residents and staff safe, and ensures facilities are adhering to guidelines and regulations.
Eversound has been using its resident engagement technology to improve the quality of life in senior living facilities since 2015. We empower seniors in more than 1,000 communities to live with social connection and a sense of purpose through ongoing support of our listening systems and activity programming.